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On with the show

From classical music to jazz, comedy to ballet, area stages will light up their new seasons for your entertainment


Cape Fear Regional Theatre
“We have an incredible season and are so pumped up for it,” says Mary Kate Burke, artistic director of Cape Fear Regional Theatre.
Starting the season is “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” a show that was first planned for the 2020 season.
“‘Buddy’ is now three years in the making, and it’s an awesome group of actors, including six to eight who are going to play instruments on stage,” says Burke, “It’s the same creative team as ‘Dreamgirls’ and just a whole host of people who are so loved in the community.”
“Buddy” follows a young man from Texas who plays his way from country to R&B and becomes a rock legend. Audiences will hear classic Buddy Holly hits from “Peggy Sue” to “That’ll Be the Day.” The show runs Sept. 15-Oct. 9.
Neil Simon’s comedy “The Odd Couple” is the second show of the season and, crazily enough, after decades of performances on stages worldwide, Fayetteville will be the only place to see the classic in America this year.
Burke says that after a production of the Simon comedy “Plaza Suite,” starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, played on Broadway, all rights to any of Neil Simon’s plays were withheld. Cape Fear’s staff really wanted to do “Odd Couple,” so they wrote a compelling letter to Simon’s widow, who owns the rights, linking the military community to Simon’s service as a reservist. It worked, and the show was added to this season.
“We are the only theater in the country who have the rights to a Neil Simon play right now,” says Burke.
Fayetteville favorites Marc de la Concha and Jonathan Judge-Russo will play Felix and Oscar, respectively. Judge-Russo gained a following when he played Drew in “Music City” in 2018.
The show will only run a week and a half, Nov. 3-11. Burke advises people to get tickets soon. “I mean, right now,” she adds with a smile.
For the 31st year, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is back again to keep a holiday tradition alive.
The production will feature four companies again this year, so patrons will have the opportunity to see more performers onstage.
The show will feature Matthew Jackson and Amber Dawn French again this year in the main adult roles. It will run Dec. 3-18.
The next show is “Matilda: The Musical,” an energetic story about a little girl with a brilliant mind and vibrant imagination. It will run Jan. 23-Feb. 19.
“This is the perfect opportunity for families to see their childhood favorite book come to life,” says Burke of the show adapted from the book by Roald Dahl.
“Welcome to Arroyo’s” is one of Burke’s all-time favorite plays, so she is excited to bring it to Cape Fear Regional Theatre.
“I describe it as it’s ‘Hamilton’ before ‘Hamilton’ if ‘Hamilton’ were a play. It’s all about family, identify and being a first-generation American,” says Burke.
“The setting for this play is a bar, and there’s graffiti art incorporated. We are hoping to be able to play live music before and after the show, maybe even serve drinks onstage, so it feels like a club setting,” Burke says.
“Welcome to Arroyo’s” runs March 23-April 9
The Tony Award-winning musical “Jelly’s Last Jam” is the final show of the season, and it is another of Burke’s favorites.
The show is the story of Jelly Roll Morton, known widely as the first true jazz composer.
“The musical score and dancing are just incredible,” says Burke, who adds that the creative team behind last season’s “The Color Purple” is returning for this musical.
The show will tap its way through May 4-28.
Burke says this season was a long time in the making, noting that three of the shows had been announced previously but were postponed because of the COVID pandemic.
“We had many hardships through COVID, but the plus sides were that we were able to look at what could be reimagined,” says Burke, “This is going to be a great season for Cape Fear Regional Theatre.”
For more information about Cape Fear Regional Theatre or to purchase tickets for upcoming shows, visit cfrt.org.

Gilbert Theater
“What I’ve tried to do with all our seasons so far is to have a good mix of lesser-known plays and old favorites that people love. Our stage can accomplish more than people would expect,” says Lawrence Carlisle III, artistic director of Gilbert Theater at 116 Green St.
Opening Gilbert’s season is the western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” which audiences might know as a 1962 movie starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.
“I can’t think of a time where I’ve seen a western on stage,” says Carlisle.
The show will transform the stage into a frontier from Sept. 16-Oct. 2.
The next show is an all-time fan favorite, “The Sound of Music,” which will run Nov. 25-27, Dec. 2-4 and Dec. 16-18.
Directed by former Gilbert Artistic Director Robyne Parrish, the show has a large cast and familiar musical numbers. The production is Gilbert’s Christmas gift to the community, following “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “The Carols” in years past.
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)” will give audiences belly laughs from Feb. 17-March 5
“It’s a comedy, for sure. Three nitwits explain all of Shakespeare’s plays in an hour. It’s very, very meta with lots of audience participation,” says Carlisle.
Carlisle adds that the show requires little to no knowledge of Shakespeare.
“You don’t need a doctorate in theater. It’s very silly and very funny.”
The next show of the season is “All in the Timing: Four Short Plays,” running April 21-May 7.
Carlisle says he was inspired to choose this show because of his days at West Liberty University in West Virginia.
“One of the first shows I ever directed was one of these one-acts. They are all comedies,” he says.
The final show of the season is the oddly titled “[title of show].” It’s the story of a couple of guys trying to write a musical. The show will be directed by Bill Saunders, a veteran of Temple Theatre in Sanford, and will run June 23-July 9.
Carlisle says he is looking forward to an entertaining season at Gilbert Theater.
“We’ve had some serious-toned plays in this past year. We are going to do some fun stuff now,” he says.
For information on season tickets as well as Gilbert Theater’s adult and children’s theater classes and other ways to get involved in the theater, go to gilberttheater.com.

Sweet Tea Shakespeare
“We like to say Sweet Tea Shakespeare is a party where a play breaks out,” says Jennifer Pommerenke, managing director of the theater troupe in which imagination fires on all cylinders.
The upcoming season includes “Richard III,” which will run in October in Raleigh; “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” set for January in Fayetteville; “Twelfth Night,” set for June in Fayetteville; “Jane Eyre,” June in Raleigh; and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” July in Raleigh.
Even though all the shows are traditionally interactive with music, Artistic Director Jeremy Fiebig says one will stand out this season.
“‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ will be immersive and interactive, adapted by local writer and educator Jessica Osnoe and a team of artists. Audiences will be transported to Jules Vernes’ classic story as guests aboard a submarine — and maybe crew and characters, too,” says Fiebig.
Sweet Tea Shakespeare also will team up once again with Fayetteville Pie Co. and will launch its first tour of schools with a four-person “Hamlet” this fall.
The company also plans its “LIT” performances, which, according to Fiebig, featured inebriated performers who strip down a story, add drinks and improv, some audience interaction, a few drinking games and classic hits on the playlist. “SIP” performances will be added this year, bringing minimalistic and simple approaches to classic stories with small casts.
For more information about Sweet Tea Shakespeare, visit sweetteashakespeare.com.

Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra
With concerts and its popular Symphony on Tap series, Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra will be all over the community this season.
“You don’t have to travel far to hear high-quality performances by professional musicians. We are coming to you,” says Anna Meyer, interim executive director of the orchestra.
On of the symphony’s goals is to increase its presence in the community.
The season will begin with a concert of blockbuster movie hits by composer John Williams from “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” “E.T.” and more. Performances are scheduled on Oct. 7 at Givens Performing Arts Center at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and on Oct. 8 at Huff Concert Hall at Methodist University.
The next shows in the season are “Something in the Wind,” scheduled Nov. 5 at St. John’s Episcopal Church; “Holiday Brass” on Dec. 9 at Haymount United Methodist Church; “Jubilate Deo” on Jan. 21 at First Presbyterian Church, 102 Ann St.; “One Song” on Feb. 4 at Huff Concert Hall at Methodist University; and “Call Me Maybe” on March 18 at Seabrook Auditorium at Fayetteville State University.
“Patrons are really going to notice the romantic themes behind the music in ‘Call Me Maybe’ with composers Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms,” says Meyer.
The orchestra will end its season with the Fayetteville Celebration on May 13 at Huff Music Hall.
“This is a community-driven performance where we collaborate with local guest artists,” says Meyer.
Past guests have included Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Gilbert Theater and local gospel choirs.
Along with the season concerts, three community concerts with free admission are planned. The silent film era will return to Dirtbag Ales when the orchestra performs for “Nosferatu” at 8 p.m. Oct. 22. Charlie Chaplin’s “The Tramp” and Buster Keaton’s “One Week” will play on a large outdoor screen as the orchestra plays on May 6.
“It’s a super-cool experience to see a silent film with a live ensemble. It was definitely brought back due to popular demand,” says Meyer.
For the Christmas season, Handel’s “Messiah” will be performed at Berean Baptist Church at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10.
“We packed the church last year and have found an even larger venue this year to accommodate everyone,” says Meyer.
With 17 performances at local breweries and restaurants, the Symphony on Tap series will bring different ensembles to various parts of town.
Meyer says it has been a major effort for the orchestra to be out in the community more often, but it’s proven to be a great time for both the musicians and the audiences. More performances have been added as dates and venues became available.
“Keep watching our website for additions,” says Meyer. “Most people do not realize that our musicians travel from all over N.C. to be here with us. We really do have the best N.C. has to offer.”
For more information on the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra season, visit fayettevillesymphony.org.

Community Concerts
From soul to country, disco to more country, Community Concerts has a spectrum of music for its 87th season. The lineup features legendary soul/R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire on Oct. 1; country favorites Tracy Lawrence and Clay Walker on Nov. 4; country staples Alabama on Dec. 22; and the disco/pop revue “Direct From Sweden: The Music of Abba” on Feb. 11.
The concerts will be at the Crown Center Complex. Ticket information is available at Community-concerts.com.

Dance studios
For the Christmas season, Fayetteville will have two chances to see “The Nutcracker” produced by local dance studios.
For the 53rd year, Charlotte Blume School of Dance, which is the home to the North Carolina State Ballet, will perform “The Nutcracker” at the Crown Auditorium on Dec. 2, 5, 9, 10 and 11. Performances also will be staged at Cumberland County schools during the day.
“It’s been a humbling experience to be able to continue Charlotte Blume’s legendary choreography and the tradition of ‘The Nutcracker’ live,” says Dina Lewis, artistic director of the studio. “Our dancers are trained, focusing on performances, not competition, and dance beautifully. It’s as close to professional as you can get.”
Blume dancers have entertained school audiences with “The Nutcracker” for more than 40 years, Lewis says.
“Every year, though, we add something new. We are constantly investing back into our costumes and scenery and audition annually, so it keeps everything fresh,” Lewis says.
Blume School of Dance will also present “Don Quixote” in the spring.
For more information on Charlotte Blume School of Dance, visit blumeschoolofdance.com.
Dance Theatre of Fayetteville will perform “The Nutcracker” on Dec. 3 and 4 at Methodist University. Dancers from several studios in the area come together to perform as Dance Theatre of Fayetteville.
“It’s a classic performance that everyone knows,” says Leslie Dumas, director of Leslie’s Dance Academy, one of the dance studios that helps with the production.
“Everyone has heard of ‘The Nutcracker,’ but not everyone has had the opportunity to see it. We hope that this becomes a tradition for all our families in the area,” Dumas says.
For more information on Dance Theatre of Fayetteville, visit dancetheatreoffayetteville.org or email dtfnutcracker@gmail.com.

College theater
Local colleges and universities also are gearing up for theatrical performances this fall.
Fayetteville State University will present “Doctor Faustus” by Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare. The show will be staged Nov. 17-20.
FSU theater professor Jeremy Fiebig says the company plans to re-create a Shakespearean playhouse. The production will be contemporary, featuring a lot of movement and music.
The theater department at Fayetteville Technical Community College is still deciding on its shows for the upcoming year. But Katherine Herring, a theater instructor, says the department hopes to expand its season.
“In the past, we have had three performances during the year and one in the summer. With COVID, we are rebuilding, but hopefully, we will be able to have two shows this year,” Herring says.
Last spring, FTCC presented “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” for two weekends with free admission. For more information on the upcoming season, visit faytechcc.edu.
Methodist University was still planning its theater season as of mid-August.